There has been a marked increase in games designed for mobile being released on home consoles and as such, a whole host of accessible bite-sized experiences are now available which open big screen gaming up for all kinds of audiences. Though not always successful, there are a few real gems among this new crop but with a big jump in price from phone to console, they must do a little more to justify that extra spend. Letter Quest: Grimm's Journey Remastered offers everything the mobile version offered and more without the pesky micro transactions that prevail in the mobile space these days.
The story is limited to say the least, told in a handful of single panel comics. Grimm is a Reaper with a hankering for some pizza, so he asks his phone for directions to the nearest carbohydrate provider and ends up fighting ghosts, monsters and giant rabbits on his roundabout trip to the 'pizza place' which strangely resembles a secret lab. Frankly, this is all the story the game needs, and at no point did we feel the need to know more about the main character or the motivations of the enemies and were quite happy to accept the set up at face value. You are trying to get somewhere, there is something in your way, and you should hit it until it is no longer an obstruction.
The gameplay is simple and engaging, mixing word games with RPG elements by offering a wealth of character upgrades. The concept is that the main character must defeat their foes in turn-based battle by spelling words using letter tiles on a grid at the bottom of the screen. The longer or more complex the word, the more damage is unleashed on enemies. Once their health is depleted, they are defeated and you can move on to the next enemy until you reach the mound of gems at the end of the level. There are thirty enemy types to defeat and as the game progresses, these enemies start to mix things up to make forming your words a little trickier. Monsters start to come with powers such as being able to poison tiles or render them unusable to the player. You'll soon be playing words much more tactically to avoid or eliminate these special tiles in a manner that is very reminiscent of Bookworm. Bacon Bandits have clearly embraced this comparison as along with several other merchant types, there is a zombie bookworm who sells equipable books and bares a striking resemblance to the main character of that much loved game.
As well as messing up your letter tiles, enemies also start to take on special traits. Some can only be damaged by words that start with a vowel for example, or some will take quadruple damage if your word contains double letters or uses letter tiles from specific areas on the board. All of these variables ensure that you are kept on your toes throughout the game and they keep things from ever getting repetitive. Each enemy also has a little biography on the screen which tells you a little about their character. These are adorable and often very funny and tie in nicely with the overall look and feel of the game which is overwhelmingly cute, lighthearted and fun. The music ties in with this too, especially if you select the original soundtrack, which we found much more enjoyable than the new remastered soundtrack that is active by default.
As mentioned earlier, several merchants become available as you progress, selling everything from potions and weapons, to upgrades to your character's damage and health, or special ability books that will power up certain word types or add healing to your attacks. There's even additional letter tiles and a second character to be unlocked from here. Items are bought using gems collected by completing levels or quests and you'll find yourself needing to go back to previously completed content several times if you want enough gems to unlock everything. There are 70 side-quests to complete to earn additional gems and these will pop up as you play, forcing you to reconsider which words you are going to use to attack your enemies and complete the quests without taking too much damage yourself.
Each level has four challenge stars to collect. The first is for normal completion, then there will usually be a timed level and one with special conditions. Once these challenges have been tackled there is a final crystal challenge in which the difficulty is turned right up and these can prove quite difficult (or perhaps impossible) for anyone who has not taken time to upgrade their character. Levels are accessed from a world map and can be revisited multiple times in order to improve your score, farm gems or complete challenges. There are thirty story levels available as well as ten "Hard" stages which offer an extra challenge and occasionally open up shortcuts to later levels - so you're unlikely to ever get stuck with no way to progress.
Although Letter Quest's main story is quite short, there is such a wealth of additional content to be unlocked that it's likely you'll be coming back to this over and over again. There is also an endless mode that exists completely separately from the main story, where you can try to defeat as many enemies as possible in a row without dying. Those who are into stats are well served also, with a wealth of statistics available from the main menu, ranging from the obvious highest scoring or longest words to breakdowns of how many times you have used each individual letter. Achievement hunters will be pleased to see that everything in the game is attainable by simply playing through as normal and the achievements pop so frequently that you'll feel like a master wordsmith from start to finish.
Letter Quest: Grimm's Journey Remastered is packed with content and will make you feel incredibly smart no matter if you're spelling out 10 letter words or giggling at the fact that you just killed a ghost by writing "FART." There is some educational potential here too but primarily you should be picking this up because it's a cute, fun game that is easy to play and a joy to master. It's not particularly long but the challenges, quests and collectibles are pitched just at the right level to keep you engaged long after the main story is over. Plus you'll need to get all the stars to unlock the mysterious final comic page…